The injuries suffered by soldiers during WWI were as varied as they were brutal. How could the human body suffer and often absorb such disparate traumas? Why might the same wound lead one soldier to die but allow another to recover?
In The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe, Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers uncover a fascinating story of how medical scientists came to conceptualize the body as an integrated yet brittle whole. Responding to the harrowing experience of the Great War, the medical community sought conceptual frameworks to understand bodily shock, brain injury, and the vast differences in patient responses they occasioned. Geroulanos and Meyers carefully trace how this emerging constellation of ideas became essential for thinking about integration, individuality, fragility, and collapse far beyond medicine: in fields as diverse as anthropology, political economy, psychoanalysis, and cybernetics.
Moving effortlessly between the history of medicine and intellectual history, The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe is an intriguing look into the conceptual underpinnings of the world the Great War ushered in.
About the Author
Stefanos Geroulanos is associate professor of history at New York University.
Todd Meyers is associate professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Society, Health, and Medicine at New York University—Shanghai.
"Geroulanous and Meyers have examined the growth of recognition that the body’s ability to recover, regenerate, or revitalize depended on the integration of body, mind, and patient response. These discoveries also transformed the postwar language of regeneration for politics and recovery of war-torn nations. Recommended."
"By illustrating the debts of the postmodern era to the medical sciences of the early century, Geroulanos and Meyers give us a very different picture of the demise of the liberal subject than the one we knew."
— Public Books
“A shared concept of human individuality lies at the heart of intellectual traditions as varied as psychoanalysis, cybernetics, and medical humanism: an individuality knowable only at the moment of its collapse. This is the remarkable argument of The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe, a provocative and poignant book, and one that will be essential reading for historians of modern science and medicine. By reconstructing modern neuromedicine’s confrontation with the violence of industrialized warfare, Geroulanos and Meyers have given us a model for writing intellectual history that is simultaneously materialized, embodied, and transnational.”
— Deborah Coen, Yale University
“Geroulanos and Meyers have written a terrifically original book. In an important sense, it is inventing its own subject—namely, the emergence of the idea that the body is a self-integrating entity—in that there has not to date been a clear articulation of this concept and certainly no comprehensive historical tracking of its development in modern scientific and medical thought. Engaging and clearly written, and with vivid examples, The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe will certainly attract an eclectic set of readers, but will have especially strong appeal for specialists in the history of medicine, psychology, and social sciences.”
— David W. Bates, University of California, Berkeley
"[A] richly innovative study. . . . Geroulanos and Meyers present an imaginative case for the First World War’s transformative effect on popular and scientific understandings of the human body. Their careful exposition of the spiralling development of the concept of physiological integration in the fields of anthropology, cybernetics and philosophy makes a highly original contribution to 20th-century intellectual history and will provide a fertile springboard for future research."
— Times Higher Education